Bethel: Full FOIA by May 2020
Attorney General Carl Bethel said yesterday that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) will be fully enacted by this time next year.
“We want to have an information commissioner in place, and begin the focused effort to fully train and equip all agencies with the necessary skills, etc., so that we are able to bring this act fully into force hopefully in the foreseeable future, and certainly before this time next year,” said Bethel who appeared as a guest on the Guardian Radio 96.9FM talk show “Morning Blend” with host Dwight Strachan.
“That is our hope that by this time next year it will be fully enforced.”
A revamped version of FOIA was passed under the Christie administration in February 2017.
The act provides for the governor general, upon the recommendation of the prime minister after consultation with the leader of the opposition, to appoint an information commissioner who would be responsible for establishing, operating and administering a Freedom of Information Unit.
Bethel said the government is currently looking for an information commissioner with the aim to have the position filled by the end of this year.
“I think that right now we are actively looking for someone to appoint to the post of information commissioner, which is the next step, and once that should have been done, then it won’t be that long,” he said.
He added, “We certainly would like to have this done by the end of the year. There’s no question of that.”
Bethel said the implementation has taken so long due to the need for extensive training in all government agencies.
“There is a need for massive training,” he said.
Bethel cautioned that the timelines were only hopes, and that he could not be held to them.
“You can’t hold me on a hope,” he said.
“I can only do my best. I am doing my best to move it forward and I am expressing the timeline I have.
“There are all sorts of imponderables and so please don’t tie me down.”
Last April, Bethel said the government was expecting to fully enact FOIA within the next budget year.
In December, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said FOIA would be fully implemented “very soon”.
Last July, Transparency International, a global coalition against corruption, gave The Bahamas a zero percent rating on the strength of its access to information legislation.